“And as many others, including USADA’s own arbitrators, have found, there is nothing even remotely fair about its process. USADA has broken the law, turned its back on its own rules, and stiff-armed those who have tried to persuade USADA to honour its obligations. At every turn, USADA has played the role of a bully, threatening everyone in its way and challenging the good faith of anyone who questions its motives or its methods, all at US taxpayers’ expense……
……USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles. I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours. We all raced together. For three weeks over the same roads, the same mountains, and against all the weather and elements that we had to confront. There were no shortcuts, there was no special treatment. The same courses, the same rules. The toughest event in the world where the strongest man wins. Nobody can ever change that. Especially not Travis Tygart.”
It says something about the colossal, borderline-delusional egomania of Lance Armstrong that even when admitting defeat in his evidently fruitless attempts to prove his innocence he still lacks the good grace to acknowledge that he has been caught out. In the face of a now-overwhelming case that he cheated he still cannot bring himself to confess.
He has given up because he knows he can’t win and is trying to salvage what remains of his reputation. To pretend otherwise, as he is doing, is ludicrous.
One is reminded of the rather sad case of Richard Virenque, who similarly refused to acknowledge he had been systematically doping and pumping himself full of anything he could get his hands on. He became an international laughing stock by blithely attempting to maintain his innocence despite irrefutable proof of what he had been up to. He looked and looks like a right dickhead.
Admittedly the case against Armstrong isn’t as absurdly open and shut in the way it was with Virenque but there is surely little doubt of his culpability.
In the first instance it is simply unimaginable that he could have defeated a peloton that for the most part were doing similar things. The performance advantage of doping and the cocktail of drugs and hormones that so many riders were on was simply too great for a man to overcome with just hard work and a good night’s sleep.
But of course there is rather more to it than that. USADA has assembled a case based on science and countless sworn-under-oath testimonies that Armstrong knew he had no chance of getting the better of. A man previously willing to aggressively fight any and every suggestion of wrongdoing or allegation against him has rather rapidly lost that ferociously combative streak. I wonder why.
The real question posed right now is: how was he able to get away with it for so long? There have been accusations of Armstrong conniving with the UCI, who would have been naturally desperate to protect the reputation of the sport’s most marketable asset.
Armstrong was able to point to the hundreds of clean tests as proof that he was ‘clean’. His former team-mate Tyler Hamilton suggests that wasn’t actually the case. In order to pull that off there must have assistance of some pretty powerful people in the sport, people whose job it was to police cycling. In those circumstances it probably isn’t surprising that Armstrong has gotten away with it for so long. Too many people would go down with him and a man like Armstrong would be sure to make sure that they did.
The tragedy is of course that even with performance-enhancing drugs Armstrong’s achievements were phenomenal. His training regimes were almost suicidally gruelling. He beat a roster of cyclists many, if not most of whom were demonstrably using the same enhancement methods that Armstrong was. Just look at Youtube clips from the mid to late 90s of all the top cyclists and compare them to the way pros ride now, especially in the mountains. The difference is phenomenal. They just can’t ride like that anymore. Armstrong was but one of many.
I’ve commented on this blog previously that I’m not one to be to be too judgmental about drug cheaters in sport. It isn’t the morally black and white question that some commentators pose it as. Many cyclists would have felt they had no choice but to ‘cheat’ as their livelihoods depended on it. It’s easy to be self-righteous when cycling is only a hobby. When it’s your job you naturally end up taking a more instrumental view.
But with Lance Armstrong it was very different. He created an image that made him millions and millions of dollars that was built on a complete lie. His career was founded on his ‘cleanness’, it was the delusion of the American Dream made flesh. He self-righteously pontificated on how his Tour wins were solely down to hard work at every available opportunity rather than just keeping his mouth shut like most of the other riders in the peloton did at the time. He viciously bullied and intimidated anyone who questioned the validity of his achievements. Filippo Simeoni, Christophe Bassons and Greg LeMond can all testify to that and they can all claim vindication from this decision. Their bravery contributed to getting us to this point.
The public persona was always a million miles away from reality with Armstrong. He was and is a spiteful, arrogant, conceited charlatan and even if he hadn’t been a lying doper he would still have been a tosser. I could never forgive him for his treatment of Marco Pantani, a rider that Armstrong was not fit to lick the boots of. His cancer was no excuse for being such an unpleasant human being.
His past has finally caught up with him and anyone with an interest in the integrity of the sport should be celebrating this moment. His ‘wins’ deserve to be obliterated from the historical record.